Through six games, the New England Patriots are one of two undefeated teams this NFL season. However, If you discount the Bills, the other five opponents the Patriots faced are a combined 6-22 right now.
While the Patriots schedule has been a cakewalk so far, it will not stay that way.
A matchup with the suddenly-threatening Jets in New York looms just around the corner. Sam Darnold took the field for the first time since Week 1 and impressively earned New York their first win of the season against the Cowboys.
Following this Week 7 matchup with Gang Green, the Patriots have a home game against the Browns, who have a roster full of talent and an enormous chip on their shoulder. There is no doubt that Nick Chubb and Co. have this game circled and will bring their best stuff.
What comes next is one of the most difficult five-game stretches on any schedule. New England has a game in Baltimore, a bye week, at Philadelphia, home versus Dallas, at Houston and home against Kansas City.
That means quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and Pat Mahomes await coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots defense is well equipped to slow down and stop opposing high-power offenses, as they are first in the league in terms of yards (234.7 ypg) and points (8.0 ppg) allowed.
However, these stats were recorded against the likes of Luke Falk and Colt McCoy. In fact, five of New England’s six opponents so far this season have a bottom-10 offense in yards per game this season. Their biggest accomplishment is limiting Josh Allen’s 11th ranked Bills offense to 10 points, and they only won this game where the offense struggled by a single possession.
With Antonio Brown gone and Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett and pass-catching running back Rex Burkhead all suddenly battling injuries, the offense that initially could hurt you anywhere on the field is suddenly lacking playmakers from the receiver position.
Though Belichick’s injury reports are about as easy to interpret as hieroglyphics, odds are New England will be without Dorsett, who missed Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, for another game. Meanwhile, Edelman, Gordon and Burkhead are all listed as questionable against the Jets.
Running backs Sony Michel and James White received a large body of work with limited production so far this season. Maybe Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can get creative with the backfield duo, even Brandon Bolden, and they can make up for production missing from the receiver position.
Though it is unlikely, lesser-known tight ends Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse could also develop some sort of chemistry with Brady and step up as receiving threats.
The Patriots could possibly get a boost to their receiver corps just in time for that daunting five-game stretch beginning Week 9. Ian Rapaport reported New England’s 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry could come off of the injured reserve and beginning with the team as early as this week. According to the report, Harry could be ready for game action as early as that Week 9 game in Baltimore.
Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, who mostly served on special teams early this season, combined for six catches and 88 yards in their last game. Perhaps Belichick plans to incorporate these seldom-used receivers into more involved roles with the offense.
From the Jets on to a Week 15 matchup with the Bengals, the Patriots will be facing quality opponent after quality opponent. It is time to see what the reigning champs are really made of.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @seanjanos.